Monday, May 26, 2014

Review: The Tides of Time (Graphic Novel)

(Originally posted to the Doctor Who Ratings Guide, August 5, 2005.)

Hmm... probably going to upset a few applecarts by saying this, but... um...

These really aren't very good Doctor Who stories. They might be good stories if you ignore the fact that they're meant to be Doctor Who stories, and treat him as an interesting incidental character, but I couldn't do that.

OK, for clarity's sake, I should point out which ones they are. The Tides of Time, Panini's new trade paperback, collects The Tides of Time, Stars Fell on Stockbridge, The Stockbridge Horror, The Lunar Lagoon, 4-Dimensional Vistas, The Moderator, and Timeslip. All of them, excepting Timeslip, were written by Steve Parkhouse, and he really doesn't seem to care about the Doctor that much. You get the feeling that if he could, he'd happily ditch the Doctor and make this all about his own characters.

And they're great, don't get me wrong. I remembered the stories fondly from when I was a kid, because I thought Shayde and Sir Justin were neat, and they still are now that I'm grown up. But, well... Shayde and Sir Justin (and Gus and the members of SAG 3 and Merlin) are the main characters. They do all the heavy lifting, plot- wise, they defeat the villains (most of the time)... really, it seems like all they rely on the Doctor for is transport. He's not a Time Lord, he's a Number Three bus. (The Doctor does defeat one of the four villains in question, but makes up for that with his spectacular incompetence in supposedly "investigating" a mysterious time anomaly in the Antarctic by playing cricket in an English village and fishing in the Pacific. It'd be better for there to have been no linking retcon than one that makes the Doctor look like the dimmest individual to walk the planet.)

There's a phrase in the TV industry for this, which I learned from John Rogers -- "sucking the day player crack pipe". It means, being so much more into your own characters than the regular leads that you start focusing the story on them and ignoring the boring people you're stuck with, since you know everyone'll love them anyway.

In fact, you get the feeling Parkhouse isn't really familiar with Doctor Who at all. He comes up with most of his own mythos, and his only use of recurring villains is a reluctant-seeming team-up between the Ice Warriors and the Meddling Monk (or, as Parkhouse seems to think he's called, "The Time Meddler". If he's going to name villains after the first TV episode they appeared in, though, it could be worse. He could have used the more famous renegade Time Lord, "Terror of the Autons".) He makes the Monk's TARDIS look like a police box as well, like that's their natural shape -- which renders the chase/dogfight in the Vortex the most confusing damned thing ever written in comics.

I should probably be more charitable to these stories. While Parkhouse doesn't seem interested in Doctor Who, he does put a lot of style and imagination into his own, new stuff... it just never really seems like he wants the Doctor to be there. And for a collection that has "Doctor Who" right on the cover, that seems to be a pretty fatal flaw.

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